People undergoing immune-boosting therapy for advanced melanoma may respond better if they eat a high-fiber diet, a new study hints.
Researchers said much more study is needed, but their initial findings — in both melanoma patients and lab mice — suggest that fiber-rich foods may help via their effects on gut bacteria.
In contrast, there were signs that probiotic supplements might lessen that benefit.
The study — published Dec. 24 in Science — looked at how diet and the gut microbiome might affect cancer patients’ response to immunotherapy — treatments that enlist the immune system to help kill tumors.
The microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that naturally dwell in the human body, largely in the gut. Those microbes are integral to the body’s normal processes — from metabolism and nutrient synthesis to brain function and immune defenses.
In fact, immune system cells and gut bacteria are continually interacting, says Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of the book “The Gut-Immune Connection.”
Gut bacteria play a key role in “educating and training” the immune system, Mayer explains.
Fiber, meanwhile, is one factor in the composition of the gut microbiome. It “feeds” certain types of bacteria — including ones that